Meet Petter, Firefighter at CERN

Meet Petter, Firefighter at CERN

I get to work with some of the most knowledgeable firefighters from around Europe

Hej Petter! Tell us a little about yourself and what brought you to CERN.

I am a firefighter from Sweden. I am married and have two 6-year old twin boys. During the years I worked there I had the chance to work in two different fire and rescue services, and I was fortunate to be in a time and place where I got the opportunity to engage in some different projects on regional and national levels. This opened my eyes to working in a bigger context, but it is not the whole truth. I am also quite curious and adventurous as a person. The first time I heard of CERN was back in high school in a physics lesson and it made a big impression on me. The second time someone mentioned it was concerning a vacancy as a firefighter at CERN. For me it was like everything started to align, and a few years later I applied and was offered the job.

What do you do at CERN today?

The job of a CERN firefighter is diverse. Some of the special risks I have to deal with in my role are radiation, electricity and cryogenics. The industrial environment is also very three-dimensional where good knowledge of rope rescue is important. I am also life-support responder working in an ambulance, and a control room operator. Last year I started taking the position as watch manager, which is the team leader in the daily work and during operations.

What is working at CERN like for you?

CERN never ceases to amaze me. It is a fascinating place of science and engineering. It is also very alive and more like a town than I first expected. Luckily there are very few big fires, but I get a lot of other interesting situations to solve and there is almost always an unexpected pleasant encounter with someone else working at CERN. On top of that I get to work with some of the most knowledgeable firefighters from around Europe. I have learnt a lot since I got here and for me that is what CERN is all about: Sharing knowledge.

What are the highlights of your time here? 

There have been many great moments with my colleagues and I also value trainings and collaborations with French, Swiss and other fire and rescue services very highly. I have really enjoyed living in the middle of Europe for these few years. My family and me have not missed one opportunity to explore the surroundings whether it has been for hiking in the Dolomites, skiing in Switzerland or just hanging out by the Mediterranean Sea. The area has a lot to offer.

Another way to explore for me, has been to run among the hills and mountains of the Alps. I soon discovered I had a talent for it and started to join mountain running competitions. One thing led to another, and there was always a longer race to test my limits. In September this year I finished third place in a race called Tor des Géants. With 350 km and 24000 meters of elevation gain circulating the Aosta valley in Italy, it is a monster of a race.
For me Tor des géants was more of a journey than a race. The trails I followed took me to some amazing places, but what is most striking about the race is, of course, the distance and the time spent on foot. With very little sleep and eating on the go I really got to test myself. My endurance, determination and motivation to carry on. There was also a good deal of dealing with small problems along the way, but the most important was to stay focused and positive.

I also did the Haute Route Chamonix-Zermatt, the most famous glacier route in the Alps, 107 km long with an elevation gain of 7500 m. It connects two mountain capitals by high altitude trails and glacier crossings with passes over 3500m. Many variations to the route exist. The one I followed starts from the church in Chamonix and links all of the highest glaciers and passes to finish by the church in Zermatt. There was a previous record time for the route set by Spanish runner Iker Karrera from 2012 with 21:20. In August this year I set out to try to beat it. The route offers breathtaking views of many of the highest peaks in the alps. It crosses glaciers and valleys in very high and remote places. It is a wild and beautiful adventure where mountain running is getting mixed up with alpinism. All of this is what makes it so complex and interesting. I arrived by the church in Zermatt after 20:26.

I am aware that it may seem to borderline insane to most people, but the experience I carry with me from this journey is a story of the beauty of nature, physical capacity and the power of determination. With the right motivation and belief a lot of seemingly impossible things are possible. This is the reason CERN exists at all, right?

What have been the main hurdles or challenges you encountered along the way in your time at CERN?

At the fire and rescue service we come from different countries all over Europe. We come here with different social backgrounds and different ways of working in our profession. Everything from how a service is built up organizationally to details concerning technical equipment may vary. Mostly we find that we have more in common than not, but there have for sure been some trying moments when aiming to go in the same direction. Most problems like that are best solved with humility and good communication. 

What advice would you give potential applicants?

Train a lot so that you are ready for a 350 km run in the mountains before you get here! Jokes aside, I think you should consider coming to work at CERN if you want to enrich your life and experience something different. Being part of CERN and at the same time having the opportunity to discover a beautiful part of Europe is simply awesome. And who knows where it will take you next…